Coyotes hand Wild another tough loss

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 31, 2011
Radim Vrbata scored a pair of goals two minutes apart early in the third period, and the Phoenix Coyotes hung on to beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 Saturday night. Daymond Langkow and Ray Whitney also scored for Phoenix, which ended a four-game skid. Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Cullen scored for Minnesota, who is now 1-6-3 in its past 10 games. With the game tied 1-1, Vrbata took a pass from Whitney low in the left circle and snapped off a shot that beat Niklas Backstrom over his right shoulder at 4:15 of the third period. Vrbata took a pass from Kyle Chipchura, circled the Minnesota net and beat a fallen Backstrom from almost the same spot at 6:16. But once again nothing would come easy for the Coyotes. Cullen scored on a penalty shot at 8:12 to get the Wild within one and shift momentum to the home team. Phoenix had played seven straight one-goal games. Backstrom, who made a sprawling save on Whitney with less than three minutes to play, was pulled with 90 seconds remaining, but Whitney added an empty-net goal with 18.9 seconds left. Both teams entered the game looking for some momentum entering a stretch in which they're away from home more often than not. While the Coyotes had lost four straight to fall to fourth place in the tight Pacific Division, Minnesota beat Edmonton 4-3 Thursday to end an eight-game drought after winning seven straight before then. Phoenix is two games into a stretch during which it plays seven of eight on the road; Minnesota plays seven of its 10 January games away from home. Despite his team being outplayed for most of the first two periods, Bouchard put Minnesota on the board at 6:19 of the second period, lifting a rebound over a sprawled Curtis McElhinney. The goaltender stopped Nick Johnson twice at the right post before the puck squirted across the crease. Bouchard has four goals in his past six games. With starting goaltender Mike Smith out with a lower-body injury, McElhinney got his first start of the year for the Coyotes after being recalled from AHL Portland on Monday. Langkow countered nearly nine minutes later on the power play. His shot from the right end line was stopped by Backstrom, but popped up and deflected off Langkow's right arm as the forward crashed the net. As the puck landed on the ice defenseman Jared Spurgeon knocked the puck into his own net. It was the first Phoenix power-play goal in 12 chances over five games. NOTES: Chipchura has three assists in his past two games. ... Spurgeon returned to the Wild lineup after missing two games. He was hit face-first into the boards Monday. ... The Wild recalled RW Jed Ortmeyer from AHL Houston and placed C Jarod Palmer on the injured list with an upper-body injury. ... C Martin Hanzal missed his fourth straight game for Phoenix with a lower-body injury. ... Minnesota, which had a season-high 38 penalty minutes Thursday -- including 20 minutes by Matt Kassian, who won two fights -- was whistled for three minor penalties; Phoenix one.
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